Stunning imagery of Block Island by Mike Blanchette
If you live in New England, you’ve probably heard of Block Island. You may know it as a party island that’s overrun with sun worshippers in the summer. The mere mention of the place may conjure up images of skimpy bathing suits, swarms of bicycles and mopeds hogging narrow roads, abundant booze and lots of loud music.
Block Island lies 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. It was formed by glaciers 10,000 years ago, and first settled by the Narragansett Indians. Captain Kidd stopped here in 1699 but these days, the place throngs with summer tourists who ferry over from Newport and Point Judith to enjoy its 17 miles of free public beaches.
I’ve been here several times, always off-season and with photography on the brain. When the tourists vacate after Labor Day, long ferry reservations are no longer necessary, the inns put out their vacancy signs, and the winding roads are nearly empty. It’s my time to visit.
What’s on Block Island? Well for starters, 44% of the island is protected by the Block Island Conservancy, ensuring that its wilderness remains unspoiled. Then, there are photogenic lighthouses, dramatic bluffs, numerous ponds, a wildlife sanctuary, charming Victorian homes, and miles of narrow roads bordered by natural fieldstone walls.
North Lighthouse is one of my favorite places, located at Sandy Point on the northern tip of the island. I’ve photographed this lighthouse at all times of day, in both color and infrared. On my last trip, I made a point of staying there alone with the curious deer hours after sunset to photograph the little lighthouse under the stars.
Another favorite of mine is the Mohegan Bluffs, which hover some 200 feet above the boulder-strewn shoreline below. It’s become one of my beloved sunrise locations, with Southeast Lighthouse standing guard above the bluffs that were aptly named after a memorable battle involving a marauding band of Mohegans.
If you decide to go, avoid the crowded summer months most popular among beach-goers, and stick with the shoulder months in late spring and autumn. Limited ferries are available from Newport during the off-season, but your best bet is Point Judith, which runs ferries throughout the day twelve months out of the year.